Thursday, December 31, 2009

The End of the "Now" Decade

Well, the decade of the Aughts ends tonight at Midnight. How do you sum up the past 10 years? Well, the following song seems to make perfect sense. It speaks to all those who want everything immediately. It speaks to the spoiled brats who don't do anything yet feel entitled to everything.

And it tells you all where you belong.

Good riddance to the 2000's.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Remotely Safe

One of the best things about being 1,800 miles from Chicago with minimal internet access is that you get removed from the spasmodic reactions of the Chicago fans on websites and the talk radio hosts that stoke the communal angst. Certainly there have to be fans on the ledge because the Cubs still haven't upgraded their team since the end of the 2009 season.

How many teeth were ground to dust over the Matt Capps to the Nationals signing?

How many gigs of message board space were filled with bitching that Curtis Granderson isn't a Cub? Same with Marlon Byrd. And even Reed Johnson, for that matter.

How much moaning is going on over the expected upcoming thrashing that the fans are expecting the Vikings to lay on the Bears and lame duck coach Lovie Smith (if he's not gone in 2 weeks, he's gone in 54 weeks)?

In the Decade of the Ought's, we as a society have come to expect instant gratification, no matter if that makes any sense or not. We all live on Internet Time. Even microwave ovens are sluggish for us.

How peaceful it is to be away from all this and be able to wear short sleeves, no jacket, and avoid e-mails.

Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate. I'll bet you wish you were where I am, even if you don't realize it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Honeymoon Over?

It getting kind of clear that some people are already getting frustrated with the Ricketts' stewardship of the Chicago Cubs. The "Tradition" fans (read: those that like to go to the games and don't want anyone to mess with that experience) are already mad that the Cubs may move their training base to Florida from Arizona.

I've had an e-mail debate with one good fan who is upset that the Cubs haven't signed anyone yet.

But, now a professional media person is getting in on the act. Barry Rozner starts drawing a line in the sand:

The problem is that while Ricketts watches this little play unfold, the theater's on fire, and the audience is screaming for the fire department.

Yet, Ricketts stands with a cup of water in hand, takes a sip, and watches it happen.


Everyone knows the family overpaid to get the franchise and its broken-down ballpark, but if they didn't have enough cash to find a new center fielder, maybe they shouldn't have bought the club.

And if they do have the money but are waiting to see what Hendry can do, enough is enough already.

What's going to happen when Ricketts doesn't win the World Series by June?

DH Designated for Assignment?

Phil Rodgers is on the case of Bud Selig's new competition committee:

Is the designated hitter rule finally on its way out with Major League Baseball?

To be fair, it's premature to ask such a potentially provocative question. But thanks to Commissioner Bud Selig's decision to turn recommendations for on-field matters over to a newly created version of the NFL's Competition Committee, the DH rule could face its first real threat since the American League accepted it permanently for the 1976 season, after a three-year experiment that began as a way to create run scoring and increase attendance.

So, why now? What could possibly be driving the removal of the DH now? Read on:

La Russa, like the other three managers on the committee ( Joe Torre, Jim Leyland and Mike Scioscia) has seen the DH rule play a major role in World Series play involving his teams. It is used in the AL park and not the NL, creating two different styles of games in determining championships.

Forced to build deeper rosters because of the DH rule, the AL has had an upper hand against the NL in recent years -- a trend borne out in results from the All-Star Game, the World Series and in interleague play. AL teams have been bigger spenders than their NL counterparts.

Oh ho! Bigger spenders? Amazing!

The reality of the DH is that it gives longer careers to marginal players. And what happens to a player's salary as their career extends? They get paid more.

DH's are high paid, one dimensional players - exactly the kind of player that teams really don't want to pay. With attendance high and juiced players scoring plenty of runs, the need for the DH as a augmentation to the offense has been basically removed.

The league wants the DH to go away, not because Tony LaRussa now no longer sees it as a benefit to the game. They want it to go away to save American League teams a lot of money.

How do they get the union to agree to this? The last thing the MLBPA wants is to see salaries go down Here's one idea. Go to a 26 man roster with a 1-man inactive slot. From the MLBPA's position, the league is going to take away 14 high paying jobs, but they will be replaced with 30 brand new jobs. Those 30 minor leaguers who are union members but stuck in AAA are certainly going to vote in favor of no-DH and yes-extra roster spot.

From the owners place, the 30 new jobs will probably earn less than the 14 players who had been filling the DH roles.

And for the fans? Well, the use of the 26th slot should go to the previous day's starting pitcher. Benches have thinned out over the past twenty years as teams migrated from a 4-man pitching rotation to a 5-man rotation. That extra starter came at the cost of a bench player. With teams carrying 11 or 12 pitchers, benches are awfully thin. Solution: Extra bench player, inactive yesterday's starter.

Does this suggestion have a chance of being adopted? Probably not. But the owners are going to have to give the players something to get them to give up 14 DH jobs. Thirty new jobs is not a bad way to do just that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Live From the Showcase Studio on Michigan Avenue

Kerm and Andy are ready to goFor those of you who listened to WGN's Sports Central last night, you were treated to 90 minutes of wry repartee on the Cubs from David Kaplan, Andy Dolan and Bad Kermit. Kaplan was a very gracious host and did a great job moving the conversation around amongst the four of us.

His producer and intern also deserve a shout out as they actually came through and had pizza ready for us when we arrived. That really hit the spot after a few Billy Goat Lagers.

You can hear the full broadcast here (via mp3 download) or simply click on the player below to listen with the commercials deleted.

FYC, indeed.

Bad Kermit with some detailed play-by-play.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Lovie Smith gave his press conference yesterday, during which he said that of his team's eight losses, "three of them were legitimate losses. ... To say we're that far away, I wouldn't necessarily say that."

Smith is saying that the Begnals (loss by 35 points), Vikings (loss by 26 points), and Cardinals (loss by 20 points) were the only ones where the Bears were not in the game.

By that logic, only 3 of the Bears' wins were legitimate as well. If Lovie is saying that his coaching has the team only a couple of plays away from a 10-3 record, then he has to admit that the opposing teams' coaches are only a couple of plays away from the Bears being 3-10 right now. In fact, Pittsburgh's problems were more to do with field goal kicking rather than coaching.

Dave Wannstedt was a lousy coach on so many levels. But what used to be the most bothersome was his refusal to take responsibility for his suckitude. "We're only a few plays away," he'd say. And he was right.

What he misunderstood was that EVERY losing team is only a few plays away. That's the difference between good teams and bad teams. Good team consistently make key plays, bad ones don't.

It's not bad luck that you are losing and you aren't close because the losses are close. If you are stacking losses, there's a reason.

When you've been stacking losses for 3 consecutive years, it's time to go away.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hard To Believe

When Jay Cutler came to the Bears, you figured that, at the very least, the Bears would be entertaining. You figured, "Young, Pro-Bowl quarterback. Decent young running back. Yeah, the D-line may be declining as Tommie Harris is now down to only 1 leg, but the offense will make this fun." It was going to be like watching the Dolphins in the Marino years. Yeah, they wouldn't really be contenders every year, but you wouldn't be bored for three hours every Sunday.

Man, was that wrong.

Lovie Smith has evolved into another Dave Wannstedt. He coaches scared. How frustrating is it to see, on 3rd and 12, a short swing pass? Isn't this QB a guy who is supposed to be able to gun it over the middle?

"Oh, but Cutler throws a lot of pics," some will say. The swing pass is the safe play.

At 5-7, what's the reason left to play it safe?

There is none.

It's not easy to tell if Lovie Smith thinks his job is in jeopardy. But going conservative instead of giving the fans something to potentially cheer about sure seems to be a way of trying to save one's own butt over treating the playing customers to an actual entertaining spectacle.

On the plus side, the next three weekends just found three extra hours for doing other stuff. If enough other people agree, just maybe the McCaskey's will realize that their brand is faltering again.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Enhanching the Stream

Last Saturday, the day when news stories people don't want talked about are talked about, Paul Sullivan ran a piece in the Tribune on ticket price increases for the Cubs in 2010:

Club box outfield seats will increase by nearly 19 percent for so-called "platinum" games, a new ticket price tier that was introduced in 2009, and will nearly double from 14 games to 26 next year.

The most expensive seat will be a platinum club infield box, which was raised by $12, or a 12 percent increase from $100 to $112. The cheapest tickets will be $9 for an upper deck outfield reserved seat for one of the six "bronze" games on weekdays in April, May and September.

The Cubs maintain that half of the ticket inventory will remain about the same, while the average price increase will be $2 for "gold" games and $5 for "platinum" games. A 1 percent rise in the city amusement tax, from 11 to 12 percent, also figured into the price hike.

In essence, the Cubs hiked the prices on their most expensive seats and said they believe many of them will be re-sold by season ticket holders. Meanwhile, they held the line on most "cheap" seats that generally go to individuals when tickets go on sale to the public in February.

The best Cubs-Business blogger out there, Wax Paper Beer Cup, has some fun with a Crane Kenney comment:

"We understand our season ticket holders in particular use the secondary market as a way of underwriting their ticket purchases," Kenney said. "It's a fact of life. We’re over that. That’s fine. So we did the $5 (average) increase on those premium games as a way of trying to push the burden of our ticket price increase on those games, leaving the ticket prices flat for most of our games, for most of our seats.”

So Kenney decides to run the 'move the blame to the ticket brokers play', it's a play that's almost as tiresome as a Bears screen pass. Kenney doesn't have to run this play and truthfully the Cubs should thank the secondary market for being an easy scapegoat every year the Cubs raise ticket prices. I guess it's easier to blame ticket brokers than it is to tell the fans: 'the team has a shitload of debt and you will pay for it. That may not go over so well.

You never want to slap down anger directed at Kenney (aside - just why is he at the Winter Meetings? What the hell kind of value is he capable of adding to actual baseball discussions?), our friend CCD kind of misses Kenney's (shockingly) correct point.

The reason the Cubs are raising ticket prices is not because of the brokers. It's because the brokers demonstrate that Cubs tickets have a higher market value than their face value.

As we all know, the Ricketts now are responsible for debt service on $425 million in loans. If they have a way to increase total revenue, they should do it. If the equilibrium price for tickets is higher than the face value of the tickets, then, by gum, raise prices.

What no one seems to have noticed here is that this has been the case for quite a while. Remember Premium Ticket Services? The Cubs have been trying to get extra money for years out of their tickets.

So, why didn't they just raise prices like this directly the last few years? Simple.

The team was for sale. What do you do when a sports team is for sale? Maximize attendance and show a buyer the inherent potential for new revenue. What do you NOT do? Do anything that creates even one more empty seat.

What this means is that prices have been lower the past several years in an effort to facilitate a sale.

This isn't really a price increase. It's a price recovery.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Toews' Insane Goal

This rare goal is getting kinda common from this guy.

There were two problems with this goal: 1) It was at the other end of the ice from where we were sitting; and 2) It was the Hawks' only goal of the night and they needed 5.

Jonathan Toews just keeps getting better and better and better...

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Ellipses...

...Jim Hendry managed to unload a bad player who was signed to too long of a contract on another team. Aaron Miles is an A. The A's gave up two non-prospects and gave the Cubs $1.7 million in salary relief. Why would they do that? Hendry handed Billy Beane Jake Fox. For once, Hendry realized some sort of positive value for a "prospect." If only he'd realized this much value with Bobbie Brownlie. Or Donnie Veal. Or Andy Sisco. Or...

...If the Bears had still owned their #1 pick in 2010, wouldn't yesterday's 17-9 snoozefest win over the Rams be the kind of game that the organization would have been better off for losing?

...Iowa goes to the Orange Bowl to play a game on a Tuesday night. The Orange Bowl Committee is certainly betting that the Iowa economy is doing well enough not only for their fans to travel to Florida, but for them to take off part of the week after New Years as well.

...The Chicago Blackhawks' crowd was pretty tepid last Friday night considering how well the team is doing, how strong the road trip was, and that it was Marian Hossa's first game in a Hawk uniform. Then again, other the Jonathan Toews' Hall of Fame caliber goal, there wasn't much to cheer about.

...Mike Cameron for the Cubs strikes me as a decent idea, but do we really want Jim Hendry setting the terms of the contract? New ownership of Tom Ricketts (et al) sure didn't do much oversight on the John Grabow negotiations.

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